In September 2006, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted a consensual investigation of Texas' Evins Regional Juvenile Center ("Evins") pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141. The investigation led to a "findings letter" which reported that Evins violated residents' constitutional rights by not adequately protecting the children confined there from harm.
The report findings included inadequate staffing and reliance on camera surveillance that had "blind spots" allowed for a rate of youth-on-youth assaults at Evins five times the national average, a dysfunctional grievance system, together with inadequacies in staffing, programming, and classification, frequent chaotic violence, poor design which exacerbated the problems of inadequate staffing, a lack of incentives to reward positive behavior and failure to provide programming sufficient to alleviate boredom also contributed to frequent fighting among residents. Youths were not classified by age or seriousness of offense, nor were efforts made to segregate the violent from the non-violent. The DOJ also found that Evins' slow grievance system, in which the residents lacked confidence, contributed to the state's failure to ensure a reasonably safe environment.
Staff-on-resident violence, too, existed at unacceptably high levels due to overworked and under-trained staff. Documentation and review of incidents were insufficient to promote safety. Inadequacies in restraint usage reporting and review also permitted abuses to continue.
On February 01, 2008, DOJ brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, McAllen Division, to enjoin the State of Texas from depriving youth confined at Evins privileges or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The complaint alleges that Defendants have engaged, and continued to engage, in a pattern or practice of failing to ensure that the youth at Evins are adequately protected from harm and from undue risk of harm from staff assault and youth-on-youth assault, of failing to provide youth at Evins adequate due process, of failing to ensure that youth at Evins receive adequate rehabilitative treatment.
On the same day, the parties also filed an Agreed Proposed Order to settle the case. On May 08, 2008, Chief Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa approved the Agreed Order and the case was terminated. Pursuant to terms and requirements of the Agreed Order, the State of Texas agrees to develop and implement policies, procedures, and practices to protect youth from harm, to report staff misconduct and other serious incidents, to provide staff, volunteers and contractual employees of Evins with training regarding their responsibilities, etc. The State also agrees that the DOJ shall monitor the State's compliance with this Agreed Order. The DOJ's monitoring shall include, on-site inspections of Evins, interviews with Evins youth, staff, and administrators, and a review of relevant documents. The DOJ shall retain a juvenile justice consultant with expertise in protection of youth from harm within the context of the operation of a secure juvenile justice facility to assist the DOJ in its monitoring activities. DOJ shall routinely report its assessment of the state's compliance to the Court. The Agreed Order shall terminate three years from the date it is ordered by the Court.
On May 05, 2011, DOJ filed the Sixth Compliance Report with the Court. DOJ's assessment is that the State has achieved compliance with the Agreed Order. DOJ therefore has no objection to the termination of this matter, as set out in the Agreed Order, on May 5, 2011.Xin Chen - 07/24/2011